Mental health service providers and designated mental health services

A number of definitions are covered here including voluntary patients, security patients and forensic patients. Only public hospitals and public health services with psychiatric facilities and Forensicare in Victoria are designated mental health services. People may only receive mental health treatment in private hospitals voluntarily. The Mental Health Complaints Commissioner is a specialist independent body charged with handling complaints about the provision or failure to provide mental health services. Victoria has agreements with a number of other States to apply its mental health provisions interstate.


A “designated mental health service” is defined at section 3 to mean a prescribed public hospital, health service or other hospital within the meaning of section 3(1) of the Health Services Act 1988 (Vic), or the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health (“Forensicare”). At the time of writing (30 June 2019), only the public hospitals and public health services that have psychiatric facilities in Victoria have been so prescribed. No private hospitals have been prescribed and therefore a person may only receive treatment there voluntarily.

“Mental health service providers” are defined (at s 3) to include either a designated mental health service or a publicly funded mental health community support service, such as psychiatric disability rehabilitation and support services that provide non-clinical support.

At least one authorised psychiatrist must be appointed at each designated mental health service (s 150). The authorised psychiatrist is effectively responsible for the person’s treatment in accordance with the MHA 2014.

Services in the community

Community based mental health services offer services to people who have a mental illness, including those who have been in psychiatric inpatient services. Each designated mental health service has a crisis assessment and treatment team that deals with urgent situations, and some have other teams, such as a mobile support team for clients who are unable to access their local mental health service. The members of these teams are usually doctors or psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers or psychologists.

Inpatient services

Inpatient services provide short-term and long-term care and treatment for people who may not be able to be treated successfully in the community. Most of Melbourne’s large metropolitan hospitals have a specialised psychiatric inpatient facility. In addition there are a number of specialised units such as mother and baby units, eating disorder units, psycho-geriatric facilities and the Thomas Embling forensic hospital.

Consumer and community managed services

A number of government and non-government services provide assistance for people with a mental illness in Victoria. They offer services including accommodation, counselling, support for relatives and friends, advocacy and self-help, and day centres.

The Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service is particularly relevant for compulsory patients. It is a free, confidential and independent service that supports people who are receiving compulsory treatment to make decisions and to have as much say as possible about their assessment, treatment and recovery.

For IMHA’s contact details, seeContacts”.

Further information about relevant services can be obtained from Mental Health Victoria and the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (see “Contacts”).